Germany

One of my favourite sites for the provision of good data in English used to be the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. I say ‘used to be’ as they changed the whole layout of their site some years ago and I believed the new design was not as easy to use. So let us see if it has changed … The site is at http://www.destatis.de and opens a three column page which has significant white borders on my screen.

Navigation on the two outside columns is within the page depth and it is only the long explanations of the various articles in the middle column that makes the page bleed across the bottom edge. Shortening the text for each entry would easily allow all to be visible in the one screen. What is more, the most exciting for the younger element – interactive charts – is currently hidden in the non-visible part of the page! The first task is to find the two common statistics from the site, Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Population. The first of these I would count as a short-term indicator and thus I click on the first link in the left-hand column. This link opens a new navigation list to the right and the first entry is the CPI. Following this, the user is rewarded not just with a very well presented graph but tabs above the graph providing the data table and a very well constructed list of other information one might require presented below the graph. At the bottom of the list one has a link to a ‘Prices’ topic: again a great deal of well thought out information.

Next I reduced the Indicator list back into the left-hand navigation and easily found a link a little lower in the topic section called population. Following this did not give another list to the right of the link but an expansion of the left-hand menu. The top link here was ‘Current population’ and following this produced a simple table of the population (with the total at the top not bottom) for three years (ending 31 December 2007). I wondered whether the on-line database would have any more up-to-date data and entered that from the penultimate link in the left-hand navigation. It looked promising … but then it went into German.

From the top navigation, the ‘About us’ link provides much information about the Office including strategic goals, quality statements, annual report and work programme. Additionally, the left-hand navigation is extended to provide some interesting links to research and development and data collection methods. And now back to the Home page – but not through the Office title on the top left or the logo on the top right – they are not hyperlinked!

To the Interactive information at the bottom of the centre column – this warns that some of the charts are not available in English. This again produces a centre column too long for the page! Worse, the beautiful graphics are not hyperlinked! So going via the linked words, to the Regional Atlas … Sadly this was apparently only in German: Google toolbar did a basic translation of some of the words on the page and even within the options. However, I did discover that the atlas has many different series available and that the user can obtain a table of the data – and extract it to Excel to use in whatever way one wishes – a boon for businesses and students wanting to access their local data.

The site has many features that would enhance others if implemented, particularly the navigation. A little more attention to the depth of the home page – and some more translation would make this one of the best.

Happy surfing …

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 27 November 2009 at 16.00 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.

The views expressed in the review are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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